Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Complete Release— Number 2

The Illustrated Sutra of Cause and Effect: 8th...Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday this identity issue appeared to be unresolved with us trapped in a logical box. So now let’s shift gears and come at this from a different tack by turning, of all places, to the Bible and look at an insightful passage:


“For our light and momentary troubles (causes and effects at the conditional level) are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

And this from Buddhist scripture:

“How does the Bodhisattva-mahasattva meditate on the Void-Void? This Void-Void is where the sravakas (see ending note) and the pratyekabuddhas (see ending note) get lost. O good man! This is ‘is’ and this is ‘not-is’. This is the Void-Void.” Chapter 22 — Mahaparinirvana Sutra.

An is, in this context, means form as when we refer to some-thing: We say it is a ladder. The is has defined characteristics. The not-is has no defined characteristic, which makes it emptiness or in other words the Void. The Void is the Wall—Essence: the unconditional nature of us all. One side of reality against which the ladder, the other side rests. Emptiness and form are the divine partnership, which frame reality. The Void is, as the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians, unseen. So what does that make the Void-Void? The answer to this question is what makes Zen, Zen and to answer the question we turn to the 14th Patriarch of Buddhism—Nagarjuna.

He really knit this together as well as anyone ever has. His expositions on emptiness are sublime. What he lead us all to see is that if emptiness has any validity then it must measure up to emptiness itself. Empty-Emptiness; the Void-Void. OK, a bit of a mind bender but let’s examine this carefully and see where it goes. First appreciate Nagarjuna’s interest and focus. He was not interested in meaningless philosophy and speculation. He wanted to rip apart speculation and arrive at the residue of truth. He wasn’t trying to create a new dimension of faith. He was working with the raw material spoken by the Buddha, and his focus was the dimensions of reality, which sat on a three-legged stool. The legs were:

1. Emptiness/essence/The Void (sometimes referred to as sunyata)—our unconditional Self
2. Form/matter/temporal life (in Sanskrit “Rupa”)—Our apparent self
3. Dependent origination

These three integrated measures of reality define what is known in Buddhism as the Middle Way. Here’s how these three fit together. Form must emerge from somewhere. That somewhere is the ‘is’ of ‘is’. ‘Is’ equals otherness with defined characteristics, which makes it limited in time, space and causality. ‘Is’ therefore is not the somewhere, otherwise it would define itself, like a car with no driver. The somewhere must not be limited. It must have no properties yet all properties at the same time, therefore the somewhere is the indefinable, transcendent essence, which, as Paul states, is unseen—the Tathagatagarbha (Buddha-womb). These two—form and emptiness—come into existence simultaneously. One can’t precede the other for the same reason that a thinker can’t precede thinking. Creation by definition implies a creator just like a thinker implies thinking. This simultaneous arising is what is known as dependent origination. But that dependent origination as stated earlier seems to occur in the imaginary box, which looks like an insolvable problem.

So let’s take the next step and see how we can resolve it. What is the pinnacle of surrendering? Surrendering from surrendering. What the heck does that mean? It means the logical ground of faith. Surrendering is an action; a motion, and form is the instrument of motion, but not the prime mover of motion. Something must propel the motion of surrendering. It doesn’t occur by itself just as a car requires a driver. Mind essence is the indefinable, unseen Void-Void which propels motion. But this mind essence is not mind as we normally think of, as a product of our limited and independent brain. This is the primal mover of all motion. This mind moves flags, the wind and us. It is the is of “is”.  When Nagarjuna postulates empty-emptiness, the Void is transformed back into form in a never-ending feedback loop, which can’t be separated.

This inseparable feedback loop of form/emptiness is this very special mind essence (our true nature) not emptiness or form but both. If it was one or the other we would still be non-integrated and dual, regardless of logic. The Buddha created a completely new paradigm, which brought the speculation about self/SELF (anatman/atman) to an end, thus resolving the identity issue. If only emptiness/essence (atman) this would be like a ghost. If only form/flesh (self) this would be the non-walking dead—“Just like a plant or stone”. The combined union of emptiness-form provides all that is needed for the existence of life. It has the driver (essence) and the car (form) and the combination—not one or the other—makes the motion of surrendering possible. Neither alone would suffice. The two become One but the One is two interdependent aspects of the same thing—the Ladder with a Wall. That being the case, dependent origination remains intact but no longer in a box constrained by mundane logic. This union has a name called mind essence. The technical term is the sambhogakaya—one of three aspects of a Buddha.

When we are finally done with hope in temporal life; when we see completely that there is nothing to hold on to that doesn’t result in suffering; when we finally get it that attachment is a dead-end, rooted in a deluded sense of separate and independent identity, then we can emancipate ourselves by releasing from attachment to attachment. Attaching to anything, including attachment, creates misery. It is quite possible to become dogmatically undogmatic and cling to a fixed position of being uniquely undogmatic, but that would still leave us attached resulting in the sort of dilemma we see today with people getting locked into unswerving ideologies and unable to compromise. 

Letting go of everything creates emancipation thus enabling us to conform to actions demanded by evolving circumstances.  When we see that, then we no longer fix our eyes on what is seen but rather fix our eyes what is unseen. What Paul asked of Christian believers to do as an act of blind faith, The Buddha and Nagarjuna reasoned as a logically discerned premise. There is a logical foundation for faith, which arose 500 years before Jesus walked the earth, and it came from Gautama Buddha, later to be refined by Nagarjuna sometime during the 2nd century CE, about a hundreds years after the apostle Paul died during the 1st century CE. The problem is actually fairly simple to solve once we let go of the fixed limitations of conceptual, mundane logic, by escaping from this box of rational logic and accessing intuitive, supra-mundane logic. When the Heart Sutra says that emptiness IS form and form IS emptiness we need to look carefully at these words as an equation: as mirror images. The union can’t be broken.

Complete release means surrendering from faith in this material existence and placing our faith completely in the unseen union of mind essence: the Void-Void. From that point on, wisdom shifts from the mundane to spiritual origins and becomes Prajnaparamita—Perfect Wisdom—we enter the realm of Nirvana: “The ‘Dharmata’ (True Essence) of all Buddhas” and then see reality, as it is without discrimination. That is ultimate wisdom. Complete release means the total absence of delusions, which thus allows the shining jewel of prajna to burst forth.

“Buddhas say emptiness
Is relinquishing opinions.
Believers in emptiness
Are incurable.”
—Nagarjuna

The problem with the conventional understanding of Paul’s statement is that it keeps God at bay; as a separate reality—in the bye-and-bye, not accessible in the here and now. What the Buddha brought to this discussion is integration. God/Buddha-Nature is both in the bye-and-bye AND in the here and now. Buddha-Nature can’t be divided and neither can we since we are fundamentally Buddhas. The curious thing about Paul’s statement is not what he said but how it is usually understood. The conventional wisdom of his day—that God lived in a heaven in the sky (where the Pie resides)—was used to interpret what he said. If you read his statement carefully you will not find a separate God.

And contrary to the Christian notion that we are separated from God, The Buddha saw this separation as impossible! We could quibble about the difference between God and mind essence and miss the point, which is that every moment within every sphere of existence, our beingness is the inseparable union of the seen (which dies) and the unseen (which lives forever). The true you and the true me is indiscriminate and exactly the same. It has no definable properties yet infuses all properties. Unless this is true then we are all like immovable stones.


This post concludes this series on surrender but more needs to be said about this matter of essence—the true you and me. Without a solid grasp of essence this entire matter floats about in the air with very little practical understanding and nothing is more practical than grasping our true nature.

Note: A sravakas is a disciple and a pratyekabuddhas is a lone Buddha; said to achieve enlightenment on their own, without the use of teachers or guides, by contemplating the principle of dependent arising.

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